Sanliurfa ( Urfa ) : Eleven Minutes Past Seven
Sanliurfa Travel Blog› entry 205 of 268 › view all entries
03.11am Drums awaken me. Drums before dawn. Such drumming! â€˜BATTA-BATTA-BATTA-BANG-BADDA-BANG-BANG-BANG!!!â€™ One would have thought they were announcing the imminent End of Days. But no. Weâ€™re six days into Ramadan now and this is the crash and thunder of one of the many town drummers who are paid to bash their way through the streets ahead of first prayer. Waking the faithful for their morning feed.
03.16 KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! â€™Stephen! Breakfasâ€˜!â€™ Faridaâ€™s voice calls me back from slumber. I stand blind and fumble into my clothes. Stagger next door to Aziz and Faridaâ€™s room. Laid out on the floor, a humble breakfast.
03.39 Stagger back to bed.
04.01 Failing completely to regain sleep. A busy mind. Body thrown by the concept of food so early. In Urfa ( Sanliurfa to give itâ€™s full name) I have been staying with adorable Kurdish husband and wife Aziz and Farida. Comfortable and happy here. Inspired by the patient but also fevered clock watching that occurs every evening before the Muezzinâ€™s permission to break fast, drink and eat I have decided to observe Ramadan for one day. This is what children do each year. Just one day. A heathen and a novice (and now a â€˜spiritual touristâ€™), I consider myself a child in such matters and am curious to give it a go. Prayer times change about a minute or two every day and today nothing is to pass my lips (I hope) - except oxygen and words - until eleven minutes past seven tonight.
Other Times : Arrived in Urfa two days ago accompanied by new friend Grzegorz. An intelligent, affable, well travelled Pole who mercifully permitâ€™s the nickname â€˜Gregâ€™. A pension/hotel owner is onto us, guestbook comments in hand before weâ€™ve even stepped from the bus. Usually such an approach is anathema to travellers but thereâ€™s something about this guy I kinda dig. â€™Where you go after Urfa?â€™ â€™Well, Mardin, Silopi and then maybe Iraqi Kurdistan.â€™ â€™Oh! Ha ha. I am Kurdish! Welcome. You come my guesthouse. Iz very nice.â€™ Sure. Why not.
04.11am â€˜ALLAAAAAAAH UUUU AKBAR!â€™ rolls from one then two and then another and another minaret.
05.30 The dawn chorus is now playing to let me know what I already know, that morning has broken. Like the first morning. My first morning of Ramadan.
08.00 Itâ€™s actually eight oâ€™clock on the dot I next look at my watch. Hmm. A watch. An article I do not like. An article I did not wear for 13 years or more. Still do not wear. Although an item occasionally necessary whilst travelling. To be worn and frequently referred to today. Eleven hours and eleven minutes to go. Itâ€™s gonna be a long day. And Iâ€™m kinda thirsty already.
Other Times : Gregâ€™s only got one night here so I join him on a half day trip 44kms south to the time-frozen village of Harran.
Greg and I pass on the one man â€™Harran Tourist informationâ€™ guide operation. We donâ€™t have long. Iâ€™m thirsty. We undertake a rough circuit of the village contained within the remainder of the bounds of the old citadel walls. The most engaging sight in Harran is that of the traditional â€™Bee Hiveâ€™ homes.
The local kids are on to us. Small trinkets in hand. â€™Mista Mista tourista geed, tourista geed!â€™ â€™Donâ€™t need geed thank you.â€™ â€™Speak Turkish Arabish Eeenglishâ€¦â€™ â€˜No geed thanks.â€˜ â€™Mista Mista one Lira one Liraâ€™ Jamelia implores.
08.34am Water denial. First challenge is to avoid lifelong instinctive actions. Reaching for my bedside bottle of water as I get up. Brushing oneâ€™s teeth. Temptation to suck in water whilst washing face. â€˜Good morningâ€™ greets Farida from her floor mattress where sheâ€™s watching TV feeling a touch better.
09.13 Aziz returns from the otogar (bus station) successful today in fishing Kiwi couple Campbell and Emma from the inbound buses. Introductions over Aziz breaks out the â€™tavliâ€™ (Backgammon) board. I inflict a 3-1 drubbing. Farida steps in next. I go 3-0 up but she scraps back to a 3-3 draw.
10.05 I commence the tedium of hand washing my clothes.
10.53 Hand washing done. â€™Thank f**k!â€™. Yeah, Iâ€™m slow. Next. The needle and thread the boys in the bazaar laughed at me for purchasing yesterday because, of course (here), sewing is a womanâ€™s work.
11.41 Shoes done. The first definite rumble of my tum. I donâ€™t expect food restraint to be a problem at all. Iâ€™m a modest eater on The Road at best. But water. Thatâ€™s another thing. I remember Harran.
12.20pm â€™ALLAAAAH U AKBAR!â€™ Ã–gle. Prayer number two. The next one marks freedom!
Other Times : Aziz and Farida are about the nicest â€™localsâ€™ I meet in my time in Turkey. Members of a small nomadic community whoâ€™s last remaining numbers - their families - still live out traditional lives of largely subsistence agriculture around the slopes of Mount Caraca, near Siverek.
Aziz and Farida grew up as neighbours and married when they were about 19 and 14 respectively. They have 7 children and 30 grandchildren now. The second youngest, Diyar, helps around the guesthouse whilst I stay. His t-shirt throughout proclaims â€™Maybe I speed have played os tandem colours instead.â€™ :) They moved from nomadic life to Urfa 25 years ago. â€™Used to live in the villagesâ€™ Farida explains â€™but many many bomb bomb.
â€™Your tattoos Farida. What do they mean?â€™ â€™Thisâ€™ she points to the â€˜lashed eyeâ€™ mark on her forehead â€™is the sun. This is nomad lifeâ€™ she says pointing to an inverted â€™Yâ€™ on her chin. She points to the wall where a curved wooden camel saddle crook hangs. The sign of the nomad. â€™Theseâ€™ she indicates small crosses and circles on her hands and arms â€™ I not know. I did these. Was young. No remember. No more. No more. No more the girls tattoos. Never.â€™ Itâ€™s true. The tattoos have ended with Faridaâ€™s generation of Kurds. No more marks of identity.
13.22pm I awake from a brief doze on the familyâ€™s cushioned bench. The ceiling of grape vines above me.
13.43 to 14.00 Spend yet more time (weeks so far) internally debating a proposed trip to Iraqi Kurdistan or not.
14.04 Nah. Going off the idea finally. Little thirsty. But not too bad.
16.11 Struggling to write anything vaguely interesting about Ephesus when the next call to prayer reverberates around the city.
Other Times : I love my forays into Urfa. At first glance it does little to enchant. But it has a quiet grace. A genuine spiritual feel to it that warms you. A pious town owing to its religious heritage. The predominantly Kurdish women (and often men) moving around in their traditional purple silk, white-cotton embroidered head scarves. Urfa possesses by far the most expansive, exciting and vibrant bazaar area in the whole of the Turkey that I will experience.
The citadel with its twin standing columns and great views. Some serenely composed mosques and their courtyards. The small revered Mevlidi Halil Camii housing Abrahamâ€™s supposed birthplace. A couple of other sites around relating to the Prophet. Undertaking his duties to convert pagans in the area, for his troubles Abraham was immolated on a funeral pyre by the local Assyrian king Nimrod. But God turned the fires into water and the hot coals into fish (or so the story goes). Abraham was then instead cast to his doom from the citadel hill but landed safely in a bed of roses. Accordingly there is Balikli GÃ¶l the charming â€˜fish lakeâ€™ thronging with thousands of feed-frenzied carp and a rose garden here abouts.
18.22pm â€™The Angelâ€™ Gabriel speaks and places his hand upon my shoulder. Sh*t. I was heading home. Gabriel (dubbed â€˜The Angelâ€˜ by yours truly), a nice enough local guy. Does â€˜tour geedâ€™ stuff but just likes to talk to practice his English. Chatted a while yesterday. Heâ€™s found me again. Iâ€™m thirsty. Getting a little ratty. Just want dinner now. A drink. Not conversation. Conversation starts okay enough but he soon veers onto religion. A favourite subject of his. His English is poor though and he is just babbling and babbling and babbling â€™and if he is a bad man then he is a bad man but if a good man then he goes bad man then if there is a poor man outside the house of the bad man and he wants food then he is a good man the bad man but if he is bad man thenâ€¦ you understand me?â€™ No I f**king donâ€™t and I donâ€™t f**king care! Not now! Iâ€™m thirsty! â€™Yeah, sort ofâ€™ I lie like a fool knowing this will only garner more expansive attempts to make his point (if he actually has one which I doubt even if he could communicate it clearly in his own tongue and Iâ€™m thirsty and ratty and I donâ€™t care!) â€™But anyway, so the bad man he is a bad man but a good manâ€¦â€™ Oh Christ please what is this guy drivelling on about?! Iâ€™m thirsty.
18.49 Back home. Diyarâ€™s laying the table. â€™How are you?â€™ enquire Campbell and Ems. â€™Thirsty!â€™ â€™Oh thirsty. You hungry?â€™ asks Aziz. â€™Yes. Hungry. But more thirsty than hungry.â€™ My conversationâ€™s getting more clipped and monosyllabic the thirstier I get. My mouths frothy and dry. Gacky and gooey from lack of moisture. My p*ss is the unhealthy colour of polished brass. Hydration issues ( â€˜A happy mountaineer always pees clearâ€™ I recall Nepal). Conversation now pierces the impatience born of my arid peace of mind like hot needles. â€™So have you travelled to countries outside of Turkey Aziz?â€™ Campbell asks.
19.06 A flick of his wrist. His watch. â€˜Five minutes nowâ€™ says Aziz sagely. Mine indicates nine. I hope my watch is slow.
19.08 â€˜Iz okay, eat eat!â€™ Aziz implores Campbell and Ems.
19.11pm Eleven minutes past seven. AT LAST! YES! My watch was four minutes slow. Itâ€™s ridiculous how much this matters by the time the muezzin sets us free. Itâ€™s time to break our fast. â€˜Iftaâ€˜. Aziz and I reverently lift our glasses of water. I recall his words of a previous day â€˜I drink slowly. The Prophet Mohammed, he says take three drinks not one.â€™ Meaning three respectful sips. No gulping as you break your fast. Definitely the best tasting water Iâ€™ve had in a long time! Relief. I made it. The body was fine. But the mind? Hmmm.
â€˜Spars!â€˜ [ Thank you ] I shout into Farida in the kitchen, where she sits alone. The isolated woman in line with Islamic decorum, despite having prepared our meal. My Ramadan is over. Aziz is happy although I pass on friendly invitations to convert more lastingly to Islam. Not my bag baby. Not my bag. I finish my time in Urfa with a devastating Backgammon flourish, whuppinâ€™ both husband and wife. A disrespectful little heathen after all ;)
Thank you Aziz and Farida for such a wonderful experience :)